Help me stop the house from reeking like a restaurant after closing.
April 16, 2008 8:43 AM   Subscribe

My living room smells like a restaurant. It does not smell like food, but like the old, greasy, disgusting smell left on your clothes when you leave the restaurant if you work there. This is making my living room unbearable. What is this smell?

My apartment is in a four-apartment block in a complex owned by a management company in the western Piedmont of North Carolina. A couple of months ago my downstairs and next door neighbors moved out and the company renovated the apartments immediately below and beside me.

I noticed at that point a smell which I described as 'sausages' to the rental lady, but what familiarity over time has led me to describe as 'restaurant'. It was not initially a constant smell. It consistently can be smelled at 13:00 and 23:00. It has been getting worse. It does not appear to be related to whether or not the heat or a/c is on.

I have taken Great Stuff and plugged up the holes where my pipes route through the wall. The smell is not coming from my kitchen. It comes from the living room near the front door. It happened when I did not have anyone living next door or below me, so I'm at a loss to know where the smell is coming from.

I am at my wit's end. The apartment complex management has not listened to me, probably because this sounds like such a crazy problem. Can anyone give me anything that it might be, based on the description of the smell? I can't be any more precise than to say that it's almost exactly like the smell in the back of a restaurant after closing - a vague, bad, greasy 'food' smell with no actual food qualities about it.
posted by winna to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Sounds like their kitchen fan is venting into your apartment.
posted by fshgrl at 8:50 AM on April 16, 2008

You might to wash the walls, etc, to get the smell out (and of course fix whatever is causing it)
posted by Penelope at 8:56 AM on April 16, 2008

Dead critter in wall cavity?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:00 AM on April 16, 2008

Response by poster: I thought it was their kitchen fan, but the apartment manager told me that the air doesn't vent out. And how could the fan for people down and to the left of me vent directly into my living room?

This has been going on so long I doubt it's a dead thing. For months.

Thanks for the replies! I need more information to take to the management - the way I'm describing it is obviously not making them feel the urgency of it.
posted by winna at 9:04 AM on April 16, 2008

This isn't helpful, but I was wondering if this is a better way to describe it: Does it smell like the way your clothes smell after you leave a hibachi (teppanyaki) restaurant?
posted by ALongDecember at 9:23 AM on April 16, 2008

Best answer: When they renovated the apartments below you, did they use any sealants or new materials that could be off-gassing? Carpet adhesive, caulk, vinyl tile or sheeting, expanding-foam insulation, paint - all these and more could potentially have a "meaty" or surprisingly animal-ish/greasy smell. If it's strong at certain times, it may be triggered by something heating these new materials - hot water pipes, lights, furnace, etc. etc.
posted by gyusan at 9:33 AM on April 16, 2008

curious. Do you know anything about the previous tenants and the apartment's history?
posted by watercarrier at 10:01 AM on April 16, 2008

Best answer: You might also consider having an HVAC specialist come out and do some tests in your apartment. Perhaps with all the renovating, they messed something up with the air pressure and these odors are venting into your apartment. Try keeping all of the windows and doors closed all day and see if you notice a change.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:03 AM on April 16, 2008

It's probably ammonia. Food Service days, shoe smelt of ammonia.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:50 PM on April 16, 2008

Response by poster: It smells like a generic restaurant, not necessarily a hibachi. Today I definitely determined that it does it when I turn on the heat, which means I may not have noticed until the renovation even though it was happening before, because I moved in last year in the summer and didn't turn the heat on until very late in the year.

Would I just look up an HVAC specialist in the phone book and ask them to come do an evaluation? How much should that cost?

This is destroying my ability to enjoy what is in every other respect a nice little apartment. Thanks everyone for the help!
posted by winna at 5:28 PM on April 16, 2008

Response by poster: Sadly, I still don't know what is causing the smell.

I threw a tantrum at the apartment people, but it still occurs, although much fainter now.

I do thank everyone for their help.
posted by winna at 1:16 PM on May 3, 2008

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